Friday, February 26, 2016

Smriti Irani ko gussa kyon aata hai?

Yes, believe it or not but I am also going to discuss about now very famous speech by HRD minister Mrs. Smriti Irani. She delivered very charged, emotional and extremely dramatic speech in Indian parliament, it became talking point of various debates and highly watched event on internet for couple of days. Finally someone from current breed of Indian politicians broke the monopoly of Mr. Narendra Modi and Mrs. Sushma Swaraj to give charged and emotional speeches in Hindi. The effect of this speech was so much that most people including opposition party members of parliament were completely stumped by it. There were mostly two types of reactions to it: people who oppose her went on complete back foot and didn't know how to counter this furious attack on them, people who support her started celebrating the way she annihilated opposition mercilessly without even bothering to check what she actually said. No doubt that it was a treat to watch, it is always a pleasure to watch a good orator in action. She used all her strengths to her advantage, she used all her experience from theater to deliver punch line after punch line effectively, the content was very emotionally charged, after listening to such speeches hardly people bother to check what speaker actually said, most of them get overwhelmed by the way the speech is delivered. In this case also same thing happened, may be now slowly after coming out of that spell they might ponder on what she actually said. I am sure opposition parties must be wondering, "Smriti Irani ko gussa kyon aata hai?"Actually in the storm created by that speech people totally ignored two very sensible speeches delivered on same issue, these were from Mr. Sugata Bose and Tathagata Satpathy, may be because both these people spoke right up to the point and without any unwanted drama and theatrics. 

Actually I still don't understand why these two issues which are respective university's internal matters are being discussed in Indian parliament? One case is about Hyderabad University student's suicide and it is alleged that university administration was directly or indirectly responsible for creating the situation which forced that student to take such extreme step and other case is a anti-India sloganeering by some group of students at JNU. Both these issues could have been dealt at university level, but I don't know why and how government of India got involved so badly in this mess. I also wonder how come country like India can afford to spend so much of its resources and energy on such issues when it has so many more burning issues which need urgent attention from its citizens as well as government. 

There is no point in analyzing the entire speech or commenting about both the issues as it will take lot of time and space. I already wrote one post about JNU issue few days back, in this post I just want to discuss few points from her speech: She repeatedly referred Rihith Vemula as a 'baccha' (a kid), but Rohith was a 26 year old man doing her PhD research, off course for any parent their child is a kid no matter how old he or she gets, but I don't think she was addressing him as a parent but she was speaking as a HRD minister of a country so she should have addressed him properly but I don't think anyone noticed this thing and if they did it bother them.
Another interesting thing which she said and got away was that according to her this suicide case was not important because of caste of Rohith (he comes from dalit section of society). Sorry madam, this issue is so fiercely debated and discussed specifically because of the caste of the student who died, otherwise tell me when many students die in India every day for various reasons, some of them commit suicides also but how many of these incidents manage even to make it on front page of news papers forget about being discussed in parliament. Just few days before 13 students from Pune were drowned at some beach in Maharashtra, did anyone bother to look into real reasons behind it; just few days back one young man associated with your own organization (RSS) was killed in Kerala, did any one bother to discuss reasons behind it? So I wonder how come she said that caste is not an issue in this case, rather it is 'the issue' in this case, and both sides are playing very pathetic politics over it. Sadly even today caste plays very important role in Indian politics and all political parties make use of caste card whenever and wherever it suits them. No one was debating problems of students or struggles of dalits or university campus related issues in parliament, it was a tragic display of political wrestling by major national parties which are only interested in political gains and nothing else, so parliamentarians please don't try to fool us.
I was also surprised when she retorted that she is taking some of the allegations and remarks personally. She said it in very dramatic way, it almost reminded me delivery mode of my favorite actor Amitabh Bachchan. But seriously Mrs. HRD minister, you take criticism or allegations personally? That too after being in politics for so long? Just imagine if Sonia or Rahul Gandhi or Mr. Modi or Mr. Sharad Pawar or any political leader who is being targeted on daily basis in parliament and outside start taking things said to them or about them personally. Just imagine the scenario if they start reacting to every allegation or criticism or even abuse thrown at them in as strident manure as you did. I want to offer one unsolicited advise to you from my side, please don't take anything personally in future because even if you do take it personally no one will give a damn about it, people will keep on throwing those things at you and I wonder how many times you will react like this?
The last point is about this facetious line said by her, "My name is Smriti Irani, I challenge you to tell me my caste," this was again very dramatic peak point of her speech. I guess she was trying to be cynical here, but any way who cares about her caste, how does it related with any of these two issues. It sounded like a lame attempt to deliver a punch line by using famous dialogue from popular Bollywood flick, actually many try to use this dialogue now a days but I didn't expect it to hear it in Indian parliament that too from HRD minister of India. But I must say it sounded really dramatic and I am sure it had some desirable effect on some of the audience who watched her speech.

For me the entire speech was largely condescending and strident with very few relevant or logical arguments, it sounded like an emotional outburst rather than balanced reply of some responsible and sensible minister, I might be wrong but this is my personal opinion. But on performance level I must admit that it was a stellar performance, worthy of grand applause. As per public perception she clearly won this debate hands down. Mr. Modi and Mrs. Sushma Swaraj now have some serious competition from their own party colleague. I am sure her speech will give many sleepless nights to key opposition party leaders, they will be wondering how to counter her rhetorical arguments by equally pompous statements. They must be desperately looking for someone from their side to match that pitch. I am sure people are waiting to watch this spectacle on the floor of parliament.

But somewhere deep down in my mind I still hope that in future some sensible and logical discussions will take place in Indian parliament which are devoid of excessive theatrics and drama. I hope that in an effort of wounding her opposition our Minister didn't inflict some serious wounds to her own government. I hope that  in future Indian parliament tries to discuss more relevant and pertinent issues which affect citizens of the country rather than some political controversies. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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Friday, February 19, 2016

JNU oh JNU..

Whatever is happening in India after that controversial protest at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has raised many questions in minds of people like me. This incident exposed deep rooted hypocrisy in minds of people belonging to both camps. I wonder why Baba Ramdev was not allowed to speak at JNU but shouting anti-India slogans are considered as right of freedom of expression? I also wonder why a trivial student protest is treated like some sort of terrorist attack by Indian government? Questions are many but I don't think there is anyone who is looking for answers, but most of them are busy in delivering judgments and it is really sad to see sense and sensibility being murdered like this. It also exposed once again inability (or I must say lack of desire) of government to control mob violence and encourage the tendency to deliver mob justice whenever this type of behavior suits them. Let me first clarify that, I am not in any way sympathetic with any so called leftist ideology and not associated with any political party or ideology so I have no interest in justifying any side's behavior in this case. What was supposed to be a student agitation rally has now turned in to a full blown national crises. It seems everyone is trying to judge other person's nationalism or patriotism using their own prism. 

Student life is and should be full of many interesting things. We go through many phases during our student life, passion towards certain issues and causes is integral part of it. People are prone to take risks at that age. As a student I myself also went through these phases. At that age many times we are very angry about so many things which we feel are wrong or unjust but have no idea about the reasons behind those things. This happens in a country like India specially if you come from under privileged background. I was angry about so many things and I didn't know whom to blame, I am sure this is still the case with many students. Students at that age already have highly impressionable mind when you add to it lot of anger and unrest, there are very high chances of malcontent behavior. During that age we easily get attracted towards rebellious behavior. Lack of patience and maturity can result in very immature or even foolish acts which we often misinterpret as rebellious or brave acts at that age. Therefore forceful and bitter attack on government or rival political group or ideology is not something unusual at that age. Anger about state, religion or any other establishment is also not unusual. These type of things used to happen in past also but because of internet and mobile video devises we all can see these things now. Off course there can not be any logical explanation offered for this but any sensible person should understand reasons behind this indignant behavior, we can only blame it on ignorance or immaturity or plain stupidity. But the question I am raising is not about behavior of some students who acted foolishly, as it was no surprise to me but the way government, media and public responded to that immature or foolish behavior by more immature or foolish actions. 

I am a supporter of complete freedom of expression, except in case of direct incitement of violence against anyone, which I guess is a punishable crime in many countries. I support right of any person to express their feelings or opinions freely. I may or may not agree with what they say but I can not take away their right to express those things. I have right to agree or disagree with anyone, I have right to oppose or support their argument but I have no right to declare any one anti-national or traitor, it is for courts to decide who is criminal and who is innocent. It is amazing to see how various political outfits define 'nationalism' in very narrow way, specially in a way which suits their own ideology. Not only they define nationalism or patriotism as per their own convenience they also start handing out certificates of these things to people. Both major political parties of India, Congress and BJP are guilty of this type of behavior. It is also sad to see that this drama of sedition, nationalism and patriotism is being played on many national news channels from last few days. During most of debates someone is branded as anti-national, news anchors are behaving as if they are sacrosanct judges and jury who are running some criminal trial. It is pathetic display of jingoism and hooliganism at the same time in name of journalism. In any democratic society expressing dissent in a peaceful way should not be considered as a crime, actually it should be allowed and right to express dissent should be protected. Any attempt to suppress any peaceful dissent is bound to create more disturbance, no matter how misguided that dissent was and how well intended the action to suppress is. I wonder how and why current Indian government committed this totally avoided mistake.  

Arrest of JNU student leader was definitely a mistake, I think they have to release him ultimately but sadly this will not happen without lot of political drama and chaos. There are so many other pertinent and serious problems which need urgent attention from government and citizens of India but sadly they are busy in focusing on wrong issues. It is really distressing to see that so much energy and resources are being wasted to deal with such trivial issues. Politics should be played and there is nothing wrong in having bitter political rivalries but to take any political fight to such a low a level is really pathetic. It is really disturbing to watch television debates and the kind of language used by some anchors and participants. It is also shocking to see that kind of aggression and violent behavior displayed in premises of court where even sentenced criminals are also supposed to be treated with dignity. I hope some sense will prevail in both sides and they will stop all this drama.

JNU oh JNU I hope you forget this painful episode and get back to your normal routine. I hope educational institutes behave and remain like educational institutes. I hope they don't become political battle grounds of various political parties to propagate their ideology at the cost of healthy debate and logical discussions. I hope we all try to listen and understand each other rather than judge and punish. I hope we apply same rules to everyone and don't behave like hypocrites. I hope people stop perversion of terms like nationalism and patriotism. I hope media behaves like media and not like mouthpiece of some political party or ideology. I hope both the sides realize their mistakes and try to correct them rather than playing blame game, and I also hope that I am not expecting too much from people and government of my country.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The real meaning of gender equality.

"How dare you talk like this with a woman?"
"This is not the way you should behave with women"
"How can police be so brutal towards women?"
I read many complaints like these, no doubt that they all are very well intended and express feeling of empathy towards women. There is absolutely nothing wrong in objecting to rude behavior or unwarranted aggression by the police or anyone else but these complaints are very gender specific. Surprisingly, even people who claim to be feminist and vow for gender equality also voice such complains which demand some sort of soft attitude towards women. It is puzzling to me on what basis while supporting the cause of gender equality some people feel that women should be treated differently under certain situations, especially when it comes to harsh criticism or some actions to maintain law and order. Aren't above complains indirectly mean that 'if someone does those things against men then it's OK or less offensive but those things are not acceptable if women are victims?' Or do they mean that men can handle those things but women can't, so please spare them from any such trauma? Aren't such arguments defeat the whole purpose of fight for gender equality? Any misbehavior or brutality should be objected, no matter whether it is against women or men or someone else. According to me "equality" means not just equal rights, but also equal responsibility at all levels. Equality doesn't come only with equal rights, but also with equal responsibility, suffering, humiliation, pressure, actually it means you will get equal of everything. One cannot demand equality and then ask for some concessions just because of their gender or race or whatever. If it is so, then it is not a true equality, but again some form of discrimination and aren't all these movements like feminism or civil rights originated to fight against any such discrimination?

There are some minimum standards for public behavior and we all should follow them. If it is wrong to speak with a woman in a certain way, then it should be wrong to speak like that with any man also. If it is wrong to push or attack women while they are part of any protest or street march then it should be wrong to do these things with men as well. Both men and women are human beings and feel the humiliation or pain in the same way, they both can be very sensitive so why to single out women? If these complainants in any way mean that women are more sensitive to certain type of language or are in any way weak compared to men then knowingly or unknowingly they are confirming widely prevalent stereotype of women being the 'weaker sex.'  This prejudice of 'women being weaker than men' is very old and deep rooted, fight to remove this prejudice is going on for several decades and such objections don't help this cause. If women really want equality, then they should object to any such preferential or differential treatment. This is very typical of patriarchal mindset where women are branded as very sensitive or weak and then offered some special protection and concessions at the cost of their freedom or right to choose. The practice of this type of mindset and preferential treatment is the root cause of such widespread gender discrimination all over the world.

I guess gender equality is very complicated and confusing subject for many men and women. I think most who demand ' gender equality' know what they are asking for but they don't know what all comes with it. It might be the case that many think that equality means getting all positive things like equal rights, equal pay, right to choose, etc., but not all negative things like unreasonable levels of expectations to perform, tremendous work pressure, brutal personal assessments or many other things which men face in their day to day lives. I don't think that it can work like this, women need to be open for all criticisms and scrutiny which men go through every day. It is not that men live very worry free and trouble free life. Men and women both are stereotyped in a certain way and we need to break these stereotypes for both of them. We all know that all genders (including transgenders) are discriminated in various ways and we need to remove all that discrimination. Equality specifically means not to ask or expect any different treatment anywhere just because of our gender. This is what equality means and this is what equality is. It really means not to expect anything more or anything less, but be equal at all levels. I hope that everyone who is against any type of discrimination try to understand the real meaning of equality and act accordingly. It is not an easy task, we all need to fight against many prejudices, stereotypes, traditions, cultures to achieve this task, many of them are very deep rooted in our own psyche, and if we flounder like this then we are going to make our task more difficult and complicated.

Let's make it very clear that if we shouldn't talk  or behave in certain ways with women then we should not be doing those things with men also and it is wrong to abuse a woman as well as a man. To understand what I mean by this, please check some of the videos where people react differently to physical abuse incidents in public places while male abusing female verses female abusing male. I know that these things cannot be generalized based on one study or one video, but we can sense that there is still a strong prejudice about both the genders which exists in our mind and we all need to fight against it. We need to stop such gender based reactions, we need to be sensitive equally towards all genders. If not, then I am afraid that notion of 'equality' will only remain on paper and on our blogs with no chance of becoming a reality on the ground. Let's work towards it and not against it.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, February 5, 2016

Public shaming for external appearance: Mr. Kejriwal and his sandals.

I read news about Mr. Kejriwal wearing sandals during India's republic day function with some dismay. Initially I ignored this news item thinking it was just an attempt to sensationalize a very trivial issue. I personally don't think even this event is worthy of any discussion but during following days I noticed more discussions about this incident that too with photos and now it seems one person sent him a check or demand draft to buy some decent shoes. It looks like there are some people who are deeply hurt by Mr. Kejriwal wearing sandals instead of shoes during this function. These so called hurt Indians are claiming that Mr. Kejriwal by doing this terrible act that too in front of French Prescient embarrassed entire India. I really wonder what is the logic behind this? This looks like ideal case of intellectual bankruptcy. But I am still trying to figure out why they think like this? Let me first say that I am personally not a big fan of any dress codes and myself faced this problem so many times in my life when people were not happy with what I wear on some occasions and I always wondered what was their problem as long as I was not coming naked and wear clean, non-stinky clothes of my choice? I know very well that any leader of Mr. Kejriwal or Mr. Modi's stature is capable enough to take care of any such attacks. They both have army of their devotees who are willing to fight for them and defend their each and every action. I am not writing this to defend any one of them but I personally went through these experiences myself, this is why I am taking an effort to discuss this issue on my blog.

I know that this type of public shaming of people for their external appearance is very real and in this age of internet it has become very regular incident. First of all, why do I or anyone else have to follow others as far as choice of dress is concerned? I am not forcing anyone to dress like me, so why people should have any problem with my dress? People definitely have freedom to express their opinions in whatever way they want, they are free to object, free to criticize but to ridicule anyone like this is not a criticism but a case of public shaming. To ridicule someone's choice of dress or food or profession is not something we should be doing as a society. There is no doubt that people like Mr. Kejriwal or Mr. Modi are public figures and their every action is open for public scrutiny but to comment about their or for that matter anyone's external appearance is something we should refrain from doing. It seems that few people want to force their choice on some individual who is choosing his own way to dress. It doesn't affect these powerful public personalities but such behaviour becomes real problems for common people who want to express themselves but then face such public wrath. One should take a note that these people are not objecting on Mr. Kejriwal not wearing a suit or a tie but they are very particular about he not wearing shoes. I also believe that they are OK with dhoti-kurta or any other Indian dress but not with sandals or chappals as may be according to them these things display cheapness or poverty and thus embarrass India. 

Why wearing sandals is so embarrassing to these people? Is it because it displays poverty or cheapness of that person or it reflects mindset of entire country? Is it because there is some official dress code for these government functions and he did serious mistake by violating that dress code? Or is it because it doesn't go very well with current fashion or doesn't suit the dress he was wearing (but how this can be matter of embarrassment for entire country)? I am sure all these people know that Mr. Kejriwal is not economically poor or deprived person by any standards. He and his family earn more than enough money to afford expensive shoes or phones or cars, and based on some photos shared by these groups it also seems that he owns some of this expensive stuff like iPhone. So they cannot call him cheap or stringy. Information about his salary and other wealth is available in public domain so one cannot also claim that he is trying to hide his wealth by living a simple life style. So it is very clear that he was wearing those sandals out of his own desire and choice, lack of money or display of fake modesty are not possible reasons behind it, and I wonder why these people have problem with that? I wonder, do these people also feel embarrassed to see Mahatma Gandhi's dress also? He went to England or to all official or non official functions without wearing any shoes or even simple pant and shirt, Gandhiji always traveled in his single piece dhoti, so was his dress choice in any way embarrassing for India as a country? Is it difficult for these people to understand that Mr. Kejriwal or Mr. Manohar Parrikar or for that matter any individual has complete freedom to choose what dress or footwear they want to wear. It is within everyone's personal rights to decide what they want to wear on any occasion. We don't elect CMs and PMs to display their fashion sense but we elect them to govern properly. What Mr. Modi or Kejriwal or anyone else wear during any function is their personal choice. Public shaming of anyone for their appearance is not good and I wonder how these people forgot about this simple etiquette which we all should follow. I also wish that instead of sending money to Mr. Kejriwal, which is a cheap publicity stunt and a total waste of that money as clearly he doesn't need it this person should have sent it to some struggling farmer or some under privileged person who are in real need of it. Public display of hunger and poverty, news of farmers committing suicide because of lack of money is more embarrassing for India than anything else. What anyone is wearing during any function is not even a topic worthy of any discussion in mainstream media for a country like India, it can be a time pass topic but definitely not something to report in national media. I hope we understand our priorities very well and act accordingly.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Let's see if age old discriminatory traditions withstand the challenge posed by modern women.

Women empowerment is still a subject of debate in many societies. Many developed countries are still trying to work out many policy changes which can help women to be a part of work force and contribute equally in all sectors of country's development. Many developing or undeveloped countries are still battling with many issues where discrimination against women is still practiced without any remorse or guilt. Recent issues related with entry of women in some temples or mosques of India is ideal example of it. Actually struggle for rights of some oppressed class is not new for any civilization, many great people have fought for causes like these, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar is one such example. This time it is good to see that the challenger to these age old traditions is the group of women, they themselves are fighting for their rights, there is not some political party or some charismatic leader leading their cause but it is a group of women who are leading this fight. I believe that this is really good thing, unless and until women themselves realize about discrimination against them and fight against it any number of laws or policies will have very limited effect. In reality there are already many rules, laws and constitutional rights which forbid any type of gender discrimination but in reality all those things just remain on paper and some age old traditions or beliefs take precedence over any law or rights. So it is good that women themselves decided to take on this task to challenge some of these discriminatory traditions. If they are really serious about this challenge then I am sure these traditions are facing the toughest threats they ever faced.

In reality, every religion has some discriminatory practice or tradition against women, it doesn't matter what their book or manual says one can easily notice that men and women are treated differently by every religion. For centuries most of these discriminatory practices were unchallenged but in last few decades things started to change. Many of these movements which challenge such traditions started on really small scale but they gained momentum as more and more women became aware of this discrimination. I guess they realized that just having an academic discussion about equality or conducting debates about feminism is not enough to change the things on ground. Many of these beliefs are centuries old, very strong opposition from section who is suffering because of them is required to change these things, just discussion and debates are not enough. I am glad that this is happening in India, I am sure things will change. Already many things have changed so this movement also will bring some desirable change. It might take some time but governments and courts can't ignore these protests for long, they definitely need to do something about this. I hope there will be some discussion about these issues with involvement of both parties and something positive will come out of all this. Actually it is not just about right to pray or enter the temple, this is a question about equality. One issue related with entry in temple is already in supreme court, this decision might act as a catalyst to change things across India, so a lot depends on what decision supreme court of India gives in this matter. Historically courts have always been more progressive compared to respective governments in such matters. On some occasions government reversed court orders on some sensitive matters for short term political gains, so it will be interesting to see what happens in this case. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]